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Weather delays launch of Rutan's balloon

Melton and Rutan
Melton, left, and Rutan would like to be the first to fly around the world in a balloon without landing  

Global Hilton aims for Tuesday launch

January 2, 1998
Web posted at: 9:08 p.m. EST (0208 GMT)

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) -- The launch of a hot-air balloon to be piloted by Dick Rutan and Dave Melton in a race around the world has been delayed until Tuesday by unfavorable weather.

The launch was pushed back a day after forecasts called for high winds in the area on Sunday which would prevent the crew from inflating the 170-foot-high, Mylar-covered Global Hilton balloon.

The launch is now scheduled for 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Rutan is best known as one of the pilots of the Voyager, a plane that he and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without landing or refueling.

Melton has more than 15 years of ballooning experience and is a licensed pilot of hot air and gas balloons. In 1995, he and fellow pilot Richard Abbruzzo won the America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race from Albuquerque to West Virginia.

Rutan says he is not worried that Chicago balloonist Steve Fossett has a head start in a competition sponsored by the Anheuser-Busch Co. The St. Louis brewery is offering $500,000 to the first team to fly a balloon around the world without landing. Another $500,000 will be given to a charity chosen by the winner. The flight must be completed by December 31, 1999.

Rutan says his balloon is equipped to fly higher than Fossett's, allowing him to catch faster wind currents than Fossett.

Rutan's 8-foot-diameter capsule, a carbon fiber sphere with five inches of foam insulation, is pressurized. Fossett's capsule -- 6 feet 6 inches long, 4 feet wide, 5 feet 8 inches high and made of Kevlar and carbon -- is not.


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